Community leaders sleep outside to raise money for Covenant House

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - More than 20 St. Louis community leaders slept out in the cold Thursday night in sleeping bags and cardboard boxes to raise money and awareness for Covenant House.

Covenant House helps young homeless people, aged 16 to 21, like 21-year-old Markeith Jackson.

When his mother died three years ago, Markeith had nowhere to go. He often slept in cold, vacant houses. His father said he couldn’t live with him and suggested Covenant House.

Markeith felt instantly at home there.

‘‘It was amazing because the same covers on the bed were the same covers I had when I was living with my mom, so it was like, I got super comfortable,” he said.

But it’s not just a warm place to sleep. Teens can stay here for up to two years, where they benefit from mentoring, a GED program, and internship opportunities.

‘‘A lot of our kids don’t trust anybody when they first come through that door, they’ve been abused and neglected, and lot of that is normalized for them,” said Covenant House Executive Director Sue Wagener. ‘‘So we really have to work on building trust in the very beginning and then figure out what their short and long term goals are.”

Markeith is one of 52 Covenant House residents. Now he's sharing his story with the community leaders sleeping out. Altogether, the executives raised more than $200,000 for Covenant House, surpassing their goal.

Mark Benson, co-founder of Ameritime, is participating.

‘‘We’ll be out in the cold for five, six, seven hours, and then we get to go back to a totally different environment,” Benson said. ‘‘It’s difficult to fathom what it would be like to be homeless 24/7, as these kids and what they have to deal with.”

For some of these executives, the sleep out is so impactful, that they start internships for Covenant House kids, like Markeith. The 21-year-old is about to say goodbye to Covenant House. After an internship, he now works full-time at aerospace company HM Dunn. He loves it.

“'I actually got approved for an apartment, so I move within the next two weeks,” he said.